Q. I liked your story today on YouTube TV and Marquee. But what about Comcast? Is there anything new with them carrying Marquee? They are the biggest cable company in our area, you know?! — Jim, Buffalo Grove, Illinois.
Jim, you are right. Comcast has yet to sign on to carry Marquee Sports Network, the new TV home of the Chicago Cubs. DIRECTV, U-verse, AT&T TV (and Now), Hulu Live, Mediacom and Charter have agreed to carry it (as well as many smaller pay TV outfits), but not Comcast, which is only the largest cable TV operator in the Chicago market.
Considering that the first Cubs game of 2020 will be played in just 11 days, that’s not very encouraging, is it?
Well, hold on. There are some new developments in the Comcast-Marquee dispute that suggest there’s a strong reason to be optimistic that a settlement is near.
Two weeks ago, Crane Kenney, the Cubs’ president of business operations, told Chicago radio host Dan Bernstein that he believed a deal was close.
“The pace has picked up dramatically, and I would just say we were very close to a deal,” Kenney said on Bernstein’s WSCR-AM 670. He added that the two parties were near settlement in March when the Coronavirus pandemic shut down talks.
Theo Epstein, the team’s president of baseball operations, reiterated that belief a few days ago by telling ESPN Chicago that he would be “really, really surprised” if Cubs fans couldn’t watch their favorite team by opening day. Epstein did not mention Comcast specifically, but the meaning of his remark was clear.
Comcast has not commented publicly lately on the talks, but it says here that it’s highly unlikely that Cubs executives would voice such optimism at this stage without good reason.
It’s also worth noting that Comcast’s agreement to carry Sinclair Broadcasting’s local stations expires this month. That’s another incentive for Comcast to come to the negotiating table. (Sinclair and the Cubs are joint owners of Marquee.)
Consequently, I think the odds are very, very good, to paraphrase Theo, that a Comcast-Marquee deal will come before opening day.
Jim, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann